At an OpenPOWER Summit 2016 event this week, two things relating to the adoption of OpenPOWER processors became very apparent. The first is that the rise of the cloud eliminates much of the cost of acquisition debate that has hampered broad scale usage of servers based on this design in the past. The second is that the Open Compute Project (OCP) lead by Facebook could wind up being one the best things to ever happen to OpenPOWER processors.
Specifically, Google and Rackspace revealed that they will collaboratively develop a server architecture using a forthcoming POWER9 processor in an OCP form factor. At the same time, Rackspace announced it has begun making servers based on a Barreleye Project available in the Rackspace Public Cloud service based on OpenStack. IBM also announced that it will be building Linux servers using POWER processors that conform to the OCP form factor using POWER processors, and that it has created a new version of the IBM OpenPOWER HPC server, developed in collaboration with NVIDIA and Wistron, that connects to NVIDIA Tesla P100 graphics processing units (GPU) through the high-speed NVLink interface.
John Zannos, chairman of the OpenPOWER Foundation, and vice president of cloud channels and alliances for Canonical, says that as cloud service providers look to expand the number and types of application workloads they can support, adoption of OpenPOWER is on the rise. That means instead of internal IT organizations having to acquire and manage OpenPOWER systems alongside x86 servers, they can now simply invoke them via application programming interfaces (APIs) in the cloud.
OpenPOWER systems, says Zannos, lend themselves well to analytics applications which, thanks to the rise of advanced deep learning algorithms, are becoming more widely developed. Hosting those applications in the cloud makes it possible to dynamically invoke IT infrastructure resources for a class of applications that would be more expensive to support on premise.
In general, OCP adoption inside the enterprise is relatively light. But cloud service providers are increasingly starting to view OCP as a processor-neutral format for building servers. As that trend continues to play out, it may very well turn out that a lot more applications will soon be running on OpenPOWER processors in the cloud than anybody may realize.